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Hurricanes host Rangers in key East showdown

by Adam Schwartz
The Rangers visit the Hurricanes in an important matchup for an Eastern Conference playoff spot (7 p.m. ET VERSUS, TSN2) in one of just three games in the NHL on Monday.

Carolina and the Rangers are two of the teams in a logjam for the East's final four playoff spots. The Rangers are seventh with 76 points, which is one more than ninth-place Carolina.

The other two games feature the Maple Leafs visiting the Senators (7:30 p.m. ET, RDS), and the Canucks looking to pull to within three points of the Blackhawks for fourth place in the Western Conference when they take on the Kings, who are still just five points out of a playoff spot.

Here's what to watch:

* Rangers center Nik Antropov, who was acquired for a 2009 second-round draft pick and a conditional 2010 selection just prior to the trade deadline, has a goal and 2 assists in his first two games a Ranger, including a goal and an assist Sunday in the Rangers' 4-3 win against the Bruins. Antropov, who has finished a season as a minus player just once in his first eight NHL seasons, has a minus-13 rating in 65 games this season.

* The Rangers, whose 158 goals is the fewest goals in the League, have the worst power play in the Eastern Conference at 14.6 percent. The Rangers, who are 20-7-4 when scoring the first goal, are 14-17-4 record when allowing the first goal.

* Carolina right wing Tuomo Ruutu, who is playing on a line with Eric Staal and Erik Cole, had his first career five-point game Saturday in the Hurricanes' 9-3 win against the Lightning while playing just 14:05. Ruutu, selected ninth in the 2001 Entry Draft, already has matched his career-high of 44 points, which he accomplished in just 64 games this season.

* Maple Leafs defenseman Luke Schenn, whose 169 hits is the second-most hits among rookies, is averaging the second-most ice time among rookies at 22:01 per game. Schenn, who is third on the team with 94 blocked shots, has a minus-14 rating on the road but just a minus-2 rating at home.

* Toronto defenseman Pavel Kubina, who leads the League's Czech defensemen with 38 points, has 5 goals and 11 points in his last 10 games, including 2 game-winning goals during that span. Kubina, who is just two points shy of his career-high of 40, which he set last season, has a minus-13 rating in 42 career games against the Senators. 

* Ottawa right wing Daniel Alfredsson, who has nine more assists than any teammate, has 3 goals and 7 points in his last seven games. Alfredsson, who has a plus-12 rating in 31 home games, has 27 goals and 59 points in 60 career games against the Maple Leafs, including a goal in his last game against Toronto.

* Senators center Mike Fisher, who had 5 goals and 15 points in 40 games before the All-Star break, has 5 goals and 11 points in 20 games since then, including 4 assists and 6 points in his last six games. Fisher, who had 40 points in each of his previous three seasons, is on pace to finish this season with just 32 points.

* Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa, who has the best points-per-game average among Northwest Division defensemen at .64, is just a goal short of tying his career-high of 12. Bieksa, who has scored 7 of his 11 goals on the road, leads the team with an average ice time of 23:55 per game.

* Canucks defenseman Mattias Ohlund, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, has blocked 30 more shots than any teammate. Ohlund, who is fifth in franchise history with 752 games played, has 16 of his 21 points in wins.

* Los Angeles, which lost all four of its home games in February, has won its first two in March and has scored a combined nine goals during that span. The Kings, who have four rookies in their lineup, lead the Western Conference and are second in the League with 1,703 hits.

* Kings defenseman Kyle Quincey, who was claimed off waivers in October, is averaging 21:07 of ice time per game this season after averaging just 13:58 last season with the Red Wings. Quincey, who has 16 more points than any other Los Angeles defenseman, has 4 assists and 5 points in his last five games.

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